If you’re just like the lot of us, it’s probably a love-hate relationship each time conference season comes around the corner for you, too. While it’s no question that the satisfaction that comes from seeing your work come together and being a huge success is exhilarating, the process of getting there can shake even the best of us.
Definitely equal parts fun and nerve-wracking for Executive Assistants is the big responsibility of pulling off company events of all sizes. But the truth is: whether you’re working at a small startup or a multi-million enterprise, planning a company event will be a regular part of your job.
We’ve walked this road far too frequently and know the struggles all too well. That’s why we’ve created a guide on how to plan a large company event.
CABINET’S 7-STEP EVENT PLANNING GUIDE FOR EXECUTIVE ASSISTANTS
Even though events will most likely have different goals, budgets, and audiences each time. The process of preparing for it will look the same for the most part.
STEP 1: Set Your Goals
If you wanna hit the mark, you need to make sure you know what you’re aiming for in the first place. That’s why goal setting is one of the most – if not, the most – critical step to planning a company event.
When you know your goal, you’ll be able to more effectively craft a good strategy to achieve the end result you want.
Here’s what you need to do:
- List down the main agenda for the event: what is the reason behind it? What will you focus on?
- What is the value you want to communicate to your audience? This may be a new product, a company benefit, or perhaps just a place to educate them on company milestones for the next year.
- How do you want to communicate that value to your audience? This is where you determine the audience engagement and outline of the program flow.
- When and how long will it run? This will set your target date and total duration for the actual event and potential logistics (i.e. meals and refreshments) that will be included.
- How big is your audience? The size of your audience will play a big part in your venue selection, potential accommodation arrangement, and catering requirements.
The more detailed your goals and targets are, the better. So, you can begin your preparation with a clear direction.
STEP 2: Determine Your Budget
Once you’ve determined your goal, you’ll have a pretty good idea of your estimated budget. One good practice is to plan out all elements and items your event will include. From big elements like the venue to small items like the decor. It’s always better to include buffers for your budget for unexpected surprises you’ll encounter down the road.
If you’re unsure what items you should include, you can try acquiring project plans from past events to gather information on what you’ll need. Go over each item on the budget and curate your list from it. If the project plan is from an event you managed, then evaluating items where you over- and underspent will be beneficial, too.
Remember that your first draft of the budget may not be your final one. As you progress through your project plan, you might need to revisit some line items and tweak them. These changes are okay but make sure that your budget accurately reflects each update, so you can track your spending easily and stay within your financial goal.
STEP 3: Build Your Project Plan
Creating a project plan will spell the difference between a taxing preparation and a seamless one. What most people don’t fully understand is that your project plan isn’t just your average to-do list. It’s your compass that will help stabilize your direction and sort all the moving parts.
The good news is that planning a company event has become easier. Especially when you have a powerful project management tool to organize your project plan. Tools like Cabinet are specially made for Executive Assistants and have all the features you need to successfully manage an event from day one.
Whether you’re a team of one or of many, you can easily streamline your coordination and track the progress of deliverables in one place. Plus, you can preview all lists, due dates, and their status on a dashboard so you can easily map out the movement of your top-level items.
STEP 4: Choose Your Venue and Caterer
Since you already know your event date and estimated audience count, you should start the hunt for your venue and caterer immediately. You’ll be surprised at how venues get booked pretty quickly and so, it’s always a good idea to source this out months ahead – no less than three to four months, especially during conference and wedding seasons.
Typically, venues also offer styling and catering services, but depending on your preference, you can also hire an external caterer. The fun part? Conducting food tastings. Of course, every single meal that will potentially be served to your guests should be tasted by you first.
If you’re planning a company event that’s outside the city or will require a fair amount of traveling, then you’ll need to also consider plane tickets and transportation arrangements as you do this.
STEP 5: Ideate Your Event Branding and Promotion
Once the logistics have been sorted, it’s time to take care of your marketing needs. Branding and promotion are the two core things you’ll need to prepare.
Branding will cover the event name, theme, and logo. From your chosen typography to decorations, everything should be thoughtfully selected to represent your organization well and align with your event purpose.
Your branding will also dictate the promotional assets you’ll need for your event. Typically, email announcements, video or poster teasers, social media posts, and badges are used to build the anticipation of the audience for your event.
STEP 6: Finalize Your Program
Those months of hard work will boil down to this: a 2 to 4 hour corporate event that your team and executives will attend. So, it goes without saying that the program matters just as much as all other facets of your preparation as this is what will primarily drive your guests’ experience.
Plan out and finalize your agenda early on. Sort through the essentials:
- Do we need a keynote speaker? If yes, who is he/her and what are their credentials? You will need to also request a copy of their corporate background and then draft an introduction off of that. Ideally, that draft should be sent to your keynote speaker for their approval.
On top of this, you’ll need to send an invitation to your desired keynote speaker at least 4 to 8 weeks in advance to provide them enough time to prepare and draft out their message. Make sure to provide them with all the information and resources they need about the agenda of the company event so they can align their message. It’s also best practice to request the outline of their message so you can double-check.
- Do you need sponsors? Will you need an extra day for them?
- Will you include plenary sessions or provide opportunities for breakout sessions?
- What do the pre- and post-event plans? Will there be cocktails prior to the start of the event to foster networking or perhaps a happy hour after?
As you craft your program, keep in mind your corporate initiatives and agenda to make sure that you achieve your goal.
STEP 7: Strategize Your Audience Engagement
Ever been to an event where the attendees look disinterested? The audience is physically present but mentally drifting away. They hear the message of the speaker but they’re not listening. They look bored out of their minds and just waiting for the meals to be served.
This isn’t what you want for your event.
You want to engage your audience and make sure that they have opportunities to participate in the program. You can do this in two ways:
- Speaker-led interactions: Polls, Q&A sessions, Ice breakers.
- During plenary sessions, try to ask the speaker to incorporate some ice breakers and Q&A portions. This is a good way to encourage your attendees to be part of the conversation.
- Audience-led interactions: Breakout sessions and breakout groups.
Conferences and rallies often include breakout sessions because it allows the audience to dive deep into multiple topics. On the other hand, breakout groups are often used for team-building events and business exercises because it is a great way to create a collaborative environment.
The good thing about audience engagement is you can combine multiple engagement styles in one event. You can have multiple breakout sessions that can different keynote speakers and further that through breakout groups after every message.
PRO TIP: For a whole day or multi-day event, it’s important that you consider factors such as meal times and schedule in your program flow. For example, scheduling breakout groups or ice breakers after lunch could be a smarter play versus a plenary session because siesta time is typically the time of the day when people are sleepy and can have less energy.
EVENT PLANNING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE HARD
The number of logistics, administrative, and budgeting tasks involved in making a company event happen can be pretty intimidating for many. But here’s the thing: it’s only hard when you do things manually.
Tools like Cabinet won’t just streamline your project management and coordination, it’ll also help you manage all your documents and track your expenses in one place. Imagine having your finger on the pulse when it comes to all the moving pieces of your event preparation; planning your company event has now become easier.